A Chocolate Tasting Affair in Cape Winelands

by Sandy Salle on August 4, 2014

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Article by Amanda Evans, Hills of Africa Travel’s CEO

When we think of South Africa’s Cape Winelands, the first thing that typically comes to mind is wine . . . Right? But even if you are not a wine drinker or don’t drink any alcohol, Cape Winelands is still an absolute must to visit. There is so much more to do than being chauffeured around from winery to winery.

Here is a glimpse into my first trip to this South Africa region:

Our guide, Pam McOnie, is one of the Cape Town area’s premier wine guides and we are incredibly lucky to have her as a guide for our discerning travelers! She has spent years studying and exploring the Cape Winelands, discovering incredible Pintotage and Chenin Blanc varietals (the two wines South Africa is most known for). In addition to wine, Pam is an expert on the Cape Winelands’ best micro-breweries, artisanal chocolates, locally produced olive oils, and restaurants.

In short, Pam is absolutely in love with her home and obsessed with food. She isn’t an excellent guide because she knows the regions and wines well, nor because she knows incredible, little facts and history of every place you visit. She is a phenomenal guide because she knows how to expertly pair each individual with their perfect day in the Winelands, to experience things they will love and remember as part of their Cape Town experience forever.

So, needless to say, when Pam picked us up early Friday morning on our last day in Cape Town outside the Cape Grace Hotel, I was beyond excited! Pam already knew the places she thought we would love, but she confirmed everything with us after we took off and walked us through the morning’s agenda.

On the way to Paarl (a region in Cape Winelands), Pam discussed with us the history of Paarl and the Spice Route, pointed out the brave winemakers using bush vine to make their wine (very risky, but when it works, it creates some of the regions best wines), and then pulled us in to our first stop at 9am – chocolate tasting!

Knowing we should pace ourselves into drinking throughout the day, we start the day with an expertly led tasting of artisanal chocolates around a bar just inside where the chocolate was made. Inside, we were able to see all the machines and equipment used to produce the chocolates, which was extremely interesting.

The owner of the facility figured out when he first started making chocolate that the best mechanism for mixing was a washing machine drum, and from that, he designed his own chocolate mixer.

During the tasting, we had small samplings scattered on the table with cacao beans from all over the world, each creating it’s own unique and distinct flavors. We smelled and touched the chocolates, then cracked and ate the cacao beans, massaged our hands with the natural coco butter made from the beans, and finally, we dove in!

Most of us are used to eating chocolate like it has legs and might run away from us at any minute so we are desperate to get it down. This was a deliberately slow process, eating each chocolate only one bit at a time and letting it melt on your tongue. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, but admittedly, it was totally worth it. I have never experienced chocolate that good – probably because I’ve never “experienced” chocolate like that!

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